A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Mama's food...

On the farm my mother made bread every other day on a charcoal burner and a terracotta platter.
She sat on a tiny stool, surrounded by all she needed. The dough balls covered with a cloth inside a large wooden bowl, caraway, sesame and poppy seeds and a jar of virgin olive oil.
As a young boy, I watched her prepare the bread and other dishes with great interest, always helping her shell peas, take the leaves off artichokes, peel potatoes, pick herbs, etc...

My favourite late morning snack, after helping my mother prepare food for seven people, was a fresh, juicy tomato sprinkled with salt and pepper and a chunk of warm bread dripping with butter churned by our own milkman.

She cooked Algerian tagines, French stews, Italian pastas or Spanish paellas, rarely remarking that many of them were some or other country’s national dish. For her it was just food, pure and simple.
She prepared our meals faithfully following recipes passed on from mother to daughter since the beginning of time.
As a family, we rarely ate out. My parents sometimes invited other relatives and friends for family meals. The hospitality was always returned within days.

Whenever my mother cooked a new dish, she often sent me over to a neighbour or an aunt with a small sample of her latest creation. The gesture was always reciprocated. In fact I was never let go without taking back a few spoonfuls of food in the hurriedly washed and dried dish.

Cooking took up all my mother's mornings. Well, that was before Papa brought her a brand new pressure cooker after we had moved to the town and the place came with a gas cooker.
From then on, my mother was a liberated woman. She had finally discovered Fast Food, long before I did. Under pressure, most dishes took less than half an hour to cook.

She ended up with so much time on her hands that she began doing volunteering work. Within weeks, she became the first female president of our town’s Red Crescent branch.

During my student days, while trying to recreate her delicious dishes, I often rang her all the way from England when I could not remember certain ingredients. The phone call regularly cost more than the food itself.

I took the photos below in Spain.
My favourite is the bottom one. Those cakes were just one delicious mouthful each. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.....

Back in July I loved Marrakesh so much that we're off there for a few days...


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Blogger Akelamalu said...

What lovely memories of your mother Cream, thanyou for sharing.

Oh those cakes look delicious!!

9/11/07 6:54 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Thanks, Akela. Those early memories are still very vivid.
Those cakes come by the dozen...

9/11/07 7:23 PM  
Blogger Akelamalu said...

Not sureI could eat a dozen, oh go on then I'll give it a whirl! When you going away?

9/11/07 8:45 PM  
Blogger PI said...

What a rich childhood you had. Re the photos I'll have one of each please - to go:)
I was given my first Pressure cooker in 1951. I can understand your mother's glee.

9/11/07 9:04 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

Oh man -- I'm hungry now and I just ate! :) Your anecdotes remind me a bit of my year in Greece, when the women spent the morning prepping and cooking. If they were making a large one-dish meal they often took it to the local bakery (which they went to daily anyway for their bread) with a big enough oven to cook it and it always turned into a social event as well. And how I used to love shopping at the weekly street market. I can still taste those juicy tomatoes, untouched by mass production and pesticides.

9/11/07 9:14 PM  
Blogger Crabtree said...

Miam !Miam ! c'est beau !
Juste le temps de prendre mes biberons et hop !la voici ...( Pas ma mère hélas elle m'avait oubliée chez une nounou d'adoption)
En 1953 (la Société d’Emboutissage de Bourgogne " Seb ") lance sa Super Cocotte en alu. En 1954 : la cocotte est inerdite au 23ème Salon des Arts Ménagers au Grand Palais. Son inventeur, Frédéric Lescurese fend d'un poeme :

"Je suis une pauvre Cocotte. Le Salon m'a fermé ses portes. Pourtant je suis sûre et fidèle. Et puis, de beaucoup, la plus Belle ..."

Et depuis ce temps là les femmes demandent à leur mère des recettes du temps jadis !

9/11/07 10:21 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Very early on Sunday morning from Luton. A long way but worth the trip, Akela.

Thanks, PI. I think it was 1962 when my mother got hers.
I still cook most of my stuff in a pressure cooker for speed.

Andrea, I remember taking trays to the bakers to cook for my mother. Roasts, breads, cakes, even sweet potatoes (!?!) I remember the gnarled tomatoes that tasted of heaven.

Merci, Crabtree.
Je me souviens de la publicité de Seb... Seb, C'est beau, C'est bon!!
J'ai toujours le livre bleu des recettes Seb qui est arrivé avec la cocotte.

9/11/07 11:01 PM  
Blogger fathorse said...

Aargh now i'm hungry! No one's food tastes nearly as good as your own mother's food. What I really miss at Uni is having a different, homecooked meal every day. I do quite well, considering I know more or less nothing about cooking, but it's nice to taste like you're at home again sometimes. My mum used to cook full meals and puddings every day when I was a kid, but now she works and so she has fallen back on frozen stuff (although she NEVER buys ready meals). I think it's a bit sad for my baby brother to miss out. But then, all our vegetables now are home-grown (but that's my dad's job - a job for MEN!)

9/11/07 11:51 PM  
Blogger la bellina mammina said...

My eldest loves helping me in the kitchen and I love this bnding time with him. I hope he'll remember those times as you had:-)
And those cakes, yum - I can finish them all!!!

10/11/07 9:22 AM  
Blogger Akelamalu said...

Lucky you, have a great time - don't forget the camera! :) x

10/11/07 10:19 AM  
Blogger Cream said...

You're quite right, My Little Pony. (FH is definitely not YOU.)
Even my sisters who've learnt to cook from my mother cannot make it the way she did, bless her soul.
I never buy ready meals because of all the additives they contain.
Anyone who says that cooking takes a long time has no idea that a good meal can take as little as 10 to 15 minutes.

Bella, I am sure he will remember all those things he's seen make. And it will give him that taste for real food that no one else can give him.

Thank you Akela. I shall try to take better photos than those I took in July.

10/11/07 10:45 AM  
Blogger savannah said...

all i can say is "mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm" ok, have to add yummy and delicious looking! enjoy your mini holiday, sugar ;-)

10/11/07 12:32 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

Fast food is necessary - but one must do it oneself to enjoy it and stay healthy! For the rest, I wonder if all of the time we save is worth it. During those long mornings when you shelled peas you learned more than food - you learned about community. In your case, it sounds like your mother used her freedom to extend community. Too often the time saved is used only to pay for things we could do ourselves, better, if we weren't working.

10/11/07 2:25 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

(oh, and would you please describe the contents of the top plate? I'm hoping its not a plate of foam, but of delicious tidbits of fruits??)

10/11/07 2:26 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Thank you, Sweet Savannah.

Yes, you're right, Hayden. While I helped my mother, she never stopped talking about all sorts of things. I'm sure that it was then that she set the foundation stones for the rest of my life.

As for the dish above, it was Pâté de Foie Gras with a Sauternes jelly, apricot jam and a few squiggles of balsamic reduction. The avocado slices, Nasturtiums, Cape gooseberry, etc.. were a little superfluous.

10/11/07 3:01 PM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

i love when you write about your childhood and this is especially sweet about your mama. What a wonderful life you have had and what a special family! This is so lovely !!!

10/11/07 6:13 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Thanks, Val.
My mother was a special woman.
And childhood was great!

10/11/07 8:06 PM  
Blogger Merisi said...

It's is one of the great blessings, having a mother who cooks and if she's a great cook, it's almost as if spending childhood in paradise, isn't it?
I spent my childhood in food heaven.

Your description of your mother's cooking routine, if not to say rituals, reminds me of scenes of everday food preparations in an outdoor kitchen in the movie "Scent of Green Papaya", one of my alltime favorite movies where food plays a substantive role.

10/11/07 8:19 PM  
Blogger Chilldaddy said...

Hey, speaking of speed. I've got this thing called a microwave that can cook a burrito in like two minutes.

Okay, you got me. I have nothing interesting to add to the discussion. Sorry. Nice to see that at least someone still blogs consistantly, though. Good for you, Cream.

10/11/07 9:33 PM  
Blogger Queenie said...

It all sounds so wonderful, maybe you should write a book, and include some of your mothers recipes.
Enjoy your holiday, again a place I'm going to visit after my op. Perhaps maryams guest homes will be open then!

11/11/07 12:15 PM  
Blogger Akelamalu said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11/11/07 3:52 PM  
Blogger zooms said...

I knew I would love the farm stories, thank you for this Cream. Here, today, in our village, there are still women who get up at 4a.m. to cook lunch for their husbands to take to work.
Needless to say I am not one of them, I tend to cook extra from the night before and put it in the fridge in plastic containers for our lunch but I do get into the kitchen by 6a.m. and make creamy oatmeal porridge with cinnamon and brown sugar, combined with a strong smell of burning martyr.

11/11/07 11:06 PM  
Blogger Akelamalu said...

The photos you took in July were great!

You put links in the comments - how do you do that?

12/11/07 11:18 AM  
Blogger Ché l'Ecossais said...

Purée, Cream, c'est pas possible de torturer l'affamé que je suis avec tes descriptions.
Je te ferais un proces, mais j'ai pas envie de donner a manger aux avocats (ils sont bien assez nourris comme ca).

12/11/07 8:02 PM  
Blogger Caribbean Colors said...

My youngest daughter is married to a wonderful man from Yemen and during Ramadan I was invited over for one of their feasts. It was impossible to take in all the food, prepared so lovingly, the old fashioned way. It was a very nice experience. I love the sweets photos! But then I would.

13/11/07 2:27 AM  
Blogger A Kite Rises said...

How precious are these most wonderful memories, glistening like jewels.

Those little desserts - I could eat about 20 in one sitting!

13/11/07 10:58 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

I have the worst sweet tooth and those cakes look like they need me!

I love to cook but do hate the time it takes to do it. I have so little. I don't mind doing it about once a week but I get cranky when I have to do it every night.

14/11/07 5:30 PM  
Blogger Guyana-Gyal said...

I'm always amazed at how our lives are similar, Cream, different times, different place, yet some things are so alike. I wonder if anthropolists have done a study on this.

My brother-in-law is East Indian from Africa...yet...so similar we are.

Hey, I didn't know that about Caribbean's daughter!

15/11/07 1:07 PM  
Blogger Daphne Wayne-Bough, said...

When you come back, I want to know how Moroccan couscous compares to Algerian. We all know Tunisian couscous isn't worth talking about.

I'm thinking of doing couscous for Christmas dinner. Now turkeys, ducks and geese have all got bird flu. Can you see those merguez with a sprig of holly in them?

15/11/07 1:33 PM  
Blogger Mélanie said...

Lovely story about your mum ! I love the bread she used to make ..My grandmother makes it too ..
These food pictures are MIAM MIAM . Enjoy your trip in Marrakech

16/11/07 8:15 AM  
Blogger Cream said...

Just got back from Magical Marrakech!
Discovered even more beautiful things. Karen loves it too.
I shall be reporting as soon as I have got used to the cold again.

17/11/07 12:11 PM  

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